Nick Jennison reviews the Martin D-18 StreetLegend. Featuring a satin-finished mahogany back and sides, the top on the new StreetLegend includes some visual wear inspired by historic models found in Martin’s museum. This gives your brand-new guitar a well-loved look that shows your music has an old soul, like many of the fine instruments curated by the experts at Martin over the years. If you’re looking for a satin-finished Standard Series guitar that stands out from the crowd, this D-18 StreetLegend could be the one for you.
Let’s start with an uncontroversial statement: everyone loves a Martin D-18! In many ways, the D-18 is THE definitive acoustic guitar, in the same way that a Strat is THE definitive electric guitar. Ok, now on to a controversial one: “relic” guitars are cool. It’s ok. Deep breaths. Take as long as you need…
Ok, now that 50% of the folks reading this review have calmed down, let’s talk about where these two statements cross over - the new Martin D-18 StreetLegend. In essence, it’s a heavy relic D-18, but as you’d expect from Martin, it’s done in a way that is inventive, tasteful and very cool.
Cosmetics aside, the D-18 StreetLegend is 100% a D-18, and nothing about that magical recipe has been changed. It has the usual spruce top, mahogany neck, back and sides, scalloped X-bracing… it’s a D-18, and it sounds like one. The tone is rich and full with tons of dynamic range and the powerful projection that only a dread can provide, but with that classic “Martin” flavour that we’ve heard on so many recordings over the years. All of that good stuff remains completely unchanged.
What IS different is the look. At first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking this guitar had been finished and then scraped at with the usual relic-er’s tool kit, but that’s not the case here. It’s also not the cheesy “photo of a relic guitar stuck to the top and sprayed over” that we’ve seen on some budget instruments. Nope, this is an entirely new process where the guitar is finished by a proprietary machine that uses tiny nozzles to spray pigment onto the top in a pattern that’s photo-accurate to the wear on a particular heavy relic’d D-18 from the Martin museum that was previously owned by the legendary Kurt Cobain. The rest of the body is finished in satin, which feels very tactile and will continue to add to the “pre-war” look as it ages - as will the nickel open-gear tuners and the pre-aged tortoise pattern pickguard.
The result is an incredibly believable relic job without having to “mess” with the most important part of the guitar for tone production - the top. It LOOKS like there are dents and gouges taken out of the top, but it’s actually completely smooth to the touch. This is a big deal because while it’s trivial to give a solid body electric the “Rory Gallagher” treatment, taking chunks out of the top on an acoustic of this calibre can wreak havoc on the tone. This is a great way to get that “well-travelled look without any tonal compromise in the process!
The Martin D-18 Street Legend is not for everyone, but a D-18 probably is. As such, if you want the same guitar without the relic look, you can have that too! But if you’re into the battle-worn aesthetic (like I am!), this is a way to get some of that “pre-war” mojo in a brand-new guitar without having to spring for the eye-wateringly expensive Authentic Aged models. It’s also a good chunk of money cheaper than a regular D-18, so when a comedian asks if they “knocked money off because it’s damaged”, you’ll have an answer for them!
For more information, please visit: